Mid Hudson News
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
SAUGERTIES - The state Department of Environmental Conservation is seeking a warrant to test two unpermitted debris landfills in Saugerties, and a “transfer station,” owned by Joseph and Rachael Karolys, according to a DEC letter dated Tuesday, May 14, sent to an environmental attorney hired by local watchdog group Catskill Mountainkeeper.
Saugerties town officials are seeking their own warrant, simultaneously battling the operation, which dumped unprocessed construction and demolition materials from New York City, in piles up to 30 feet high, since 2016. The piles are estimated at 46,000 cubic yards, for each of the two dump sites.
Town Supervisor Fred Costello spoke at a meeting organized by Catskill Mountainkeeper, the Woodstock Land Conservancy, and Dump Here Never, to over 150 concerned neighbors gathered in the high school auditorium Tuesday night. All demanded swift action.
“As we stand, we have not been able to get accurate samples about material and know whether it is safe or unsafe and what it may or may not hold,” Costello said.
Representatives from the offices of Congressman Antonio Delgado (D-NY19); State Senator George Amedore; and incoming Ulster County Executive Patrick Ryan, also attended. Panelists at the event who also spoke, in addition to Supervisor Costello, were Kate Hagerman, program manager for Catskill Mountainkeeper; their legal counsel Emily Svenson; and whistleblower Mike Ferraro.
“According to neighbors, dozens of semi trucks each day deliver C&D debris to the Karolyses 1446 Rt. 212 site,” Svenson wrote in a five-page letter dated May 6, written to DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “The material is stored in outdoor piles. Workers then load the material onto dump trucks which transfer it to two undeveloped sites owned by the Karolyses: 90 Goat Hill Road and 33/43 Fell Qui Road.”
“The DEC is aware of the Karolys operation, and department staff has been actively investigating reports of assorted illegal activity,” explained Kelly Turturro, DEC regional director, writing on behalf of commissioner Seggos, in her May 14 reply to Svenson. “DEC attempted to gain access by consent through discussions with the property owner’s attorney, without success,”
“The property owners refused to grant DEC staff access to the properties to evaluate whether the sites are in compliance with the environmental conservation law,” Turturro said. “Accordingly, we are currently seeking a warrant in court so that DEC staff will be able to access and inspect the sites.”
DEC officials did not attend Tuesday night’s meeting nor did the Karolyses or their representatives.
Costello reviewed the history of the case, which started as a low-level operation in 2016, but gradually increased until a stop-work order was issued at the end of 2018 by the town, resulting in a ZBA application to counter municipal enforcement action.
The Karolyses also took the town to court, hamstringing officials with restraining orders, he said.
The ZBA ruled in favor of Saugerties on April 18, amended briefs were scheduled for May. Costello also described cat-and-mouse activities involving off-hour and “sneaky” re-routed truck deliveries,
“Lots of trucks, as of the end of 2018, it’s gotten progressively worse, close to 30 trucks a day were coming in there, dumping material,” Ferraro said. “Right now, since the April 18 ZBA meeting, he’s taken a lot of caution, removed almost all of the material from Rt. 212, and basically dumped it all up on Goat Hill Road, still bringing trucks in, maybe five or six trucks a day. II keep an eye on it every day, I keep track of everything that’s going on.”